Canadians overseas

Re: “Kenyan nightmare over for Canadian”, August 16,2009, Lethbridge Herald – A4

The First Secretary of the Canadian Embassy in Cape Town responded in his letter to my request, “As a guest of the Republic of South Africa, a Canadian of non-European origin is expected to respect the laws of the land.”  I was detained for three days in Johannesburg and was told to leave South Africa in two hours.  I asked the Canadian Ambassador in South Africa to find out the reason for my expulsion.   That was 1972.   I guess the embassy had assumed that I had done something illegal.

Hearing about the ordeal Suaad Hagi Mohamud in Kenya, and about the other recent similar incidents in Sudan and Syria to mention a couple, I wonder if there is a pattern.  They are all names of “non-European Canadians.”  Ms Mohamud’s trouble was initiated by the Canadian High Commissioner’s office in Nairobi, who accused her of being an imposter and turned her over to the Kenyan authorities.   It was not the Kenyans who caused Ms Muhamed’s grief, as Mr. Harper alleged.  Or is this an evidence of an unspoken the two tier system of Canadian citizenship?  If anyone can produce the European sounding names who went through a similar experience recently and prove me wrong, I will be grateful.

As a result of an enormous pressure from the United Church of Canada, Ottawa acted several years later.   In a letter of apology from Mr. Mitchell Sharp, who at the time was Secretary of State for External Affairs, I found out that reason for my expulsion.   South Africans didn’t like the company I kept.   Desmond Tutu was my teaching colleague in the Theology Department, and Steve Biko was a student in the University Christian Movement where I was a Regional Director.  And I knew many other people like them.  I didn’t do or say anything subversive.  I am not that brave.  

 I wonder if  there is a pattern in the civil and diplomatic services to treat some Canadians more equal than others.  I hope not.

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